It is very common for runners to experience foot discomfort during their training. In particular, first time runners/marathoners often run into some nagging foot problems after 2-3 months (or less) of training.
Bottom of the foot or heel discomfort often means plantar fasciitis but there are several other diagnoses that you may need to consider and get treated sooner such as entrapment neuropathies, skeletal conditions, inflammatory conditions or soft tissue conditions.
Some traditional self-treatments methods for plantar fasciitis include: ice, stretching foot, calf and hamstring muscles, strengthening (towel pull with toes, heel drops), heel pads/inserts, tennis ball massage, night sock/splint and wearing supportive shoes (outside and at home).
Other self-treatment methods that I and my patients have had success with include:
- Before getting out of bed in the morning (or before taking your first step if you sleep standing up), massage the painful area, usually on/near the heel, for 20-30 seconds, then stretch your calves once you stand up
- Replace your shoes:
- You may need a new pair of the same model
- You may need a different brand of shoes or type (i.e. cushioning, motion control, stability)
- Your shoes may need a different size of shoe (i.e. sliding if too big can cause plantar fasciitis stress)
- Avoid running hills and speed until symptoms subside
- Limit standing and walking until symptoms subside
- Avoid forward lean when running as this puts more of a stress on calf muscles (especially 3rd layer going into the foot)
- Stretch hip flexor to prevent a forward pull of the psoas (upper hip flexor) muscles on the low back causing a forward lean
- Avoid (or at least wait) to try barefoot running or ‘minimalist’ shoes.
If these methods to not work, you may need to seek help from a health care provider – ideally one who runs and does some sort of hands-on soft tissue technique. In other words, once an appreciable amount of adhesions (may feel like a small painful nodule at or near base of heel) develop then time off, stretching and/or exercises may not be enough.
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